Ole Gunnar Solskjaer saluted his Manchester United debutants after their positive promotion to the first team in the defeat at Astana.
Solskjaer handed Di’Shon Bernard, Ethan Laird and Dylan Levitt their full debuts in a side with an average age of just 22 years and 26 days – the youngest United have ever fielded in European competition.
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Jesse Lingard ended a 28-game goal drought to give United a deserved one-goal lead at the break, but they slipped to their first Europa League defeat of the season as Dmitry Shomko’s equaliser and an unfortunate own goal from centre-back Bernard flipped the game in the space of seven second-half minutes.
We’re disappointed with the end result but there are definitely positives, Solskjaer said. I thought we started the game fantastically, the boys took control of the game, and the response after they scored two was also good.
I was disappointed with that 10-minute spell, you could feel pressure was coming but there were some fantastic performances by the three young lads who made their debut, all were excellent.
Solskjaer rallies behind Bernard
Centre-back Bernard will not forget his Manchester United debut in a hurry, for both good and bad reasons.
The 19-year-old produced an assured defensive performance but that was overshadowed to an extent by turning the ball into his own net to hand Astana the victory.
Solskjaer insists Bernard should reflect on his debut with pride, adding: He’ll remember that [goal] from his debut but I want him to remember the other 92 minutes and every other touch he had.
He was excellent. He defended well, some last-ditch clearances. Sometimes strikers miss chances and sometimes defenders score an own goal, that’s partly down to bad luck.
He did really well, that’s why I want him to remember this game.
What next for United’s youngsters?
With the history and tradition of Manchester United rooted in giving youth a chance, thoughts logically turn to what the future holds for Solskjaer’s youngsters after their first taste of first-team action.
Solskjaer hinted he may consider sending some of them out on loan, but insists that all have an opportunity of breaking into his plans on a permanent basis.
Some of these might benefit from going out on loan, he said. They need men’s football. Some have got the taste of it already, and some are also knocking on the door.
You could see the way we dominated midfield, James (Garner) and Dylan, it was nice to see midfielders dominating the game.
Di’Shon was not exposed, Ethan was marauding down the right-hand side, so some of these have done themselves a good favour.
(c) Sky Sports 2019: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer salutes Manchester United debutants after Astana defeat